Mental health relief: POLL

CEO: Brett Dennett.Maitland Private Hospital’s move to address the Hunter’s mental health crisis has progressed.

Maitland City Council confirmed last night that the plan to build a new 43-bed mental health ward at the hospital’s Ashtonfield site conformed to local government requirements.

But it will be up to the Hunter and Central Coast Joint Regional Planning Panel to give final approval.

The plan has been referred to the panel because it is a project of regional significance worth more than $5 million.

The Mercury reported recently that Maitland faced a shortage of public hospital places for ­mental health patients.

People were sent to Taree and Newcastle for treatment this month after Maitland Hospital’s mental health unit reached capacity.

Maitland Private Hospital CEO Brett Dennett said the plan for the new ward was a response to the need for more mental health services and rehabilitation facilities in the Hunter.

And he said the demand for mental health ­facilities in the region was forecast to rise in the coming years.

The new mental health unit would be built above the car park that fronts the New England Highway.

It would allow the existing 25-bed mental health ward to be used as a rehabilitation unit.

“There is a fairly lengthy waiting list for rehab and the mental health ward is nearly always at capacity,” Mr Dennett said.

“There is a demand for both.”

He said the larger ward would allow the hospital to branch out and offer more specialised care.

This could include treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.

Mr Dennett said the work would be privately funded and would have to be ­complete by the end of 2015, if approved.

“It’s a totally new building in front of the hospital over the existing car park,” he said.

“It conforms with everything the department of health requires.”

Mr Dennett said the hospital expansion would mean 20 new nursing jobs and about five ancillary staff positions.

The plan also includes 34 extra car parking spaces at the site.

OPINION:New beds offer some relief from mental health crisis

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